Thursday, March 12, 2015

STEPping Out: Amazon's Familiar Double Standard. Again. Still.

Five months ago, I did a blog post about Stepbrother Dearest - the first stepbrother book that broke the pseudoincest barrier, pushing into romance. At the time, I lamented the fact that as an erotica author, Amazon wouldn't allow me to use the word "stepbrother." Not in my title, not in my blurb, not anywhere (except maybe inside the book, where it wasn't searchable) that might warn a reader that they were about to read something about "pseudoincest" (i.e. a relationship between non-biological family members). But Penelope Ward was allowed to use the word "STEPBROTHER" in her mainstream, new adult romance novel about (wait for it) pseudoincest. With that decision, Amazon took its double standard to a whole new level.

Since Ms. Ward's use of STEPBROTHER in her title, Amazon has seen a huge influx of Stepbrother titles in romance. Here's the interesting thing--Amazon still won't let erotica authors use any reference to relationships in their titles. We are still calling daughters "little brats" and fathers "the man of the house." Granted, they seem to have backed off a little on some terms. We can use the word babysitter now, although the word "virgin" can still get you in trouble. Erotica authors are using the "first time" euphemism instead.

If nothing else, Amazon has forced erotica authors to adapt.

Well, they've adapted again. There has been a large rash of STEPBROTHER titles appearing on Amazon written by erotica writers. But they're not appearing in erotica. They're showing up in romance. Some of them belong there--no reason an erotica author can't write a romance, right? Of course not. As long as it's a romance, I see no problem with it. It's a current loophole, and if Amazon's going to leave one, authors are going to walk through it until a wall is put up. That's been proven in this business over and over again.

The problem is, there have been a few cases where a "stepbrother" title has been banned/blocked. If an author misjudges the market and accidentally puts their book into the "erotica" category instead of romance, they risk getting the book blocked. In erotica, STEPBROTHER or ANY family reference is still taboo. (Ironically, the word "taboo" is just fine though!) But you can put it in ROMANCE with the words STEP, STEPBROTHER or STEPSISTER. So far, Daddies and Mommies or variations thereof, are still out. But, authors can get away with a lot more in romance in general. If an erotica author tried to publish a book called PRICK it would get ADULT filtered faster than you could say "Put a condom on that!" But in Romance? It hit Amazon's top ten.

Isn't it ironic? The place where you'd expect all the dirty words, we're not allowed to use them. At least, on the outside. While the romance authors get to write about cocks in their blurbs and put half-naked people on their covers and write about pseudoincest all they like - as long as they give their characters a happy ever after, of course.

I realize a lot of authors are jumping through this loophole, hoping to cash in on the "pseudoincest-romance" craze, like they jumped on the motorcycle club bandwagon, the shifter bandwagon, the billionaire bandwagon, etc. And I don't blame them. Amazon opened the door and practically invited them in to this one.

The problem is, Amazon can slam that door too. So while I'm not above jumping through this loophole myself--I've just started a series of books called "Stepbrother Studs"--I want to caution writers. Especially erotica writers, who are jumping on this trend. Tread carefully. Watch your blurbs, watch your covers, watch your titles, and pay attention to the market. If you're putting books in romance, please make sure they fit the genre.

Otherwise, you may find out just how hard Amazon can slam a door that was previously wide open. And how much that hurts. Right in the pocketbook. Ouch!

Believe me, I've been there and done that, and it's not fun. So make hay while the sun shines, why not? But let's not keep pushing the boundaries until Jeff Bozos decides to stop clowning around and pick up the whip again to force authors back in line. That's only gonna hurt everyone, in the long run.
So, to sum up, if you're writing step-romance:

1. Make sure it's a romance.
2. Put it in ROMANCE, not erotica, if it has a "Step" in title. (and see rule 1)
3. If it's not a romance - if your characters aren't falling in love (and no, adding 'and they lived happily ever after' at the end doesn't make it a romance) don't put it in romance. Readers are going to be pissed and you're going to risk your account when the book gets blocked. If you want to see what an stepsibling pseudoincest erotic romance reads like, there are three listed below that will be free for 24 hours (and available to be borrowed on Kindle Unlimited). Are they hot? Yep. Are they short? Relatively. Are they romances? I think so. Read them and judge for yoruself.
4. Watch your blurb, title and cover. Remember your audience. Romance readers like it dirty too, sometimes, and that's fine, but pushing the boundaries too far may end up coming back to bite you. So just be smart.

I've got the first three in my new series out now. Free. If you want to take a look at them for what to do, go ahead. Covers are sexy guys (fits the genre), titles have "stepbrother" but they're in romance. And while they're not novels, they're a good 8-10K in length, and they all have couples who are fighting their taboo attraction to one another, but ultimately give into it--and fall in love. In other words, they're romances.

Check them out. Judge for yourself.

FREE through 3/12/2015
Melinda loves winning, especially when it means trouncing her arrogant stepbrother, Aaron.

He thinks he's all that and a bag of chips, but the nineties called and it wants its catch phrase back, because as far as Melinda is concerned, he's more like all that and a bag of dicks--at least, he is lately.. All her friends think he's hot, but they don't have to deal with his smug smirk or his giant ego. All they can talk about is his rumored, giant... something else.

So on their long train ride home for winter break through the Canadian mountains to Upper State New York, she decides to make a wager with her big-headed stepbrother, one she hopes that will settle the score between them, once and for all.

FREE through 3/12/2015
Jill’s parents aren’t home, it’s the middle of the hottest summer on record, and there’s a huge built-in swimming pool in the backyard.

Well, what would you do? The only thing standing between her and the best party of the summer is her jerky older stepbrother, Brian. He says he's trying “protect” her but he never lets her do anything fun! It looks like he’s going to be a party-pooper this time too, until the perv decides to give her what she wants—with one caveat.

 Everyone who comes to the party, has to come naked.

 Now the hottest party of the summer just got hotter, and Jill’s about to find out that she’s not too keen on the way all the other girls look at her sexy stepbrother. In fact, she’s starting to look at him in an entirely different light herself…

FREE through 3/12/2015
Virginia hates him. Her stepbrother, Cameron is older, annoying, listens to crap music, borrows her stuff without asking, and teases the ever-loving life out of her.

She hates him when she finds out he's taken her iPod again.

She hates him even more when she finds out he's been spying on her, and not only that, he's been "sharing" his sexy discovery. And charging his friends admission!

 She hates him while she's plotting her revenge. She hates him all the way up to the point that she can't anymore.
Because now, she's falling for him--the one guy she knows she can't have.

Selena Kitt 
Erotic Fiction You Won't Forget 

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